Gears Tactics is the new video game in the Gears of War series and allows you to approach the franchise in a very different way from all previous installments. Developed by Splash Damage and The Coalition, Microsoft Game Studios has chosen to create a spin-off under the genre of turn-based strategy in the purest style of sagas like XCOM, although with its peculiarities and maintaining a part of the essence of the saga.

Gears Tactics is truly a prequel that takes place 12 years before the first Gears of War. In this way, the game introduces protagonists, concepts, visual elements and an argument that will sound to any follower of the millionaire Microsoft saga. The big news is the genre used, going from the shooter to the strategy with a tactical combat in turns that is the base of the whole game.

Considering the appreciation that we have for the Gears of War and as unconditional lovers of XCOM (and substitutes like the recent Phoenix Point) that we will inevitably have to face, it was a game that we had to analyze. Microsoft Game Studios has granted us a license for Steam that we appreciate and here is our analysis.

Gears Tactics, PC requirements

The hardware requirements to run the game on PC are contained at the level usually demanded by current great games and, of course, lower than other titles in the shooter franchise like Gears of War 5. Of course, there are Remember that the game is from Microsoft: it requires using Windows 10 64-bit, DirectX 12 and connecting with an Xbox profile (any company ID).

Minima:

Processor: Intel Core i3 Skylake | AMD FX-6000
Memory: 8 GB of RAM
Graphics: AMD Radeon R7 260X | NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti
DirectX: Version 12
Network: Broadband connection
Storage: 45 GB of available space
Sound Card: DirectX Compatible
S.O: Windows 10 64-bit

Recommended:

Processor: Intel Core i5 Coffee Lake | AMD Ryzen 3
Memory: 8 GB of RAM
Graphics: AMD Radeon RX 570 | NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970
DirectX: Version 12
Network: Broadband Internet connection
Storage: 45 GB of available space
Sound Card: DirectX Compatible
S.O: Windows 10 64-bit

We have tested it on a desktop with an NVIDIA 2080 Super graphics, Core i7-6600K CPU, 32 GB of RAM, an NVM SSD and a panoramic monitor with 3K + resolution, 100 Hz refresh rate and in the Ultra configuration with all filters to the maximum. The experience has been superb in any situation. We have also run it on a laptop with a GTX 1050 (2 GB of VRAM) and a Core i7-7700 processor, playing at 1080p resolutions and lowering parameters to medium quality.

We have not noticed any technical problem, failures or high loading times in the two test sets. The game is well worked and optimized.

Plot and history

The cities of the planet Sera begin to succumb to a monstrous threat from the underworld: the Horde Locust. After the chaos in which the government ends up mired, a squad of survivors will rise as the last hope of humanity.

So begins an unexpected game, because to be honest I don’t think anyone expected a similar twist in the franchise: a strategy GoW. Of course, the knowledge of the saga that developers have is noticeable and it is a game that will sound to all your followers in terms of general history, testosterone butt and blood everywhere. The big news is how the action is played.

Through well-made cinematics, the developers fill the gap of those twelve years of margin with the start of Gears and put us in a situation. The setting is very well achieved and although the plot is not important in this type of game, at least the effort to offer a consistent story based on known characters is noticeable. This is 100% Gears, but different.

The game offers animations (short, but very cool) at the beginning and at the end of each mission, which together with central characters and perfectly detailed maps, make the game visually the most attractive that we have seen among the group of turn-based tacticians. The technical bill is impeccable (under the Unreal Engine) as expected on a Gears.

The beginnings promise and hook any player, even newcomers to the genre. After the presentation, we will soon put ourselves in the shoes of a well-known protagonist, Gabe Diaz, a rebel soldier who must rescue and form the squad that will allow us to safely eliminate the threat that comes from the underworld, the Horde Locust and its imposing bosses endings. Very soon you will have the help of another acquaintance, veteran Sid Redburn.

Starting with Gears Tactics

After the initial kinematics we enter the matter. The general interface is simple and clear and offers access to video, sound and input settings. The video section can be extensively modified in textures, environment or processing up to maximum 4K HDR supported and in “Ultra” graphic quality. The title is well finished and can be played on medium equipment (desktop or portable) adjusting all kinds of parameters, resolution, filters and frames per second minimum or maximum. It includes an internal performance test that automatically adjusts the graphics section to run the game with guarantees on any supported equipment.

The sound section is well resolved. It accompanies throughout the action and the voices of the main characters stand out above all. It should be noted that the game is perfectly localized to the spanish language in texts and the entire audio. If you want, because you can use others from the same interface and activate or not the subtitles. As for input methods, it supports control and vibration, surely preparing the launch of the game on Xbox consoles. We have not used it. These PC titles are much better played with keyboard and mouse.

The game offers five save slots for the same number of games. Connected to the Microsoft cloud, progress is automatically saved at the end of missions and at certain checkpoints. It also has manual save, but it can’t always be used.

The learning curve is smooth. You can activate a small tutorial and it offers four levels of difficulty until you reach the most difficult, “madness”, and combined with a special mode “Ironman”, which does not allow any errors or restart missions or go back. We have played it in the way recommended for the first campaign, “intermediate”, and it is not particularly difficult, although it requires knowledge of how the mechanics of this type of game work and of the numerous enemies that must be faced, always in greater number than your soldiers, some very dangerous and with fearsome final bosses.

The campaign can be completed between 25 and 30 hours depending on your skill and side quests you do. It can be repeated in other difficulties, using other tactics and varying combinations of soldiers, but the truth is that it is short. The argument based on characters and the linearity of the campaign that we will see in the next point does not allow modification or creation of random scenarios that radically change the game.

Strategy and management (or lack thereof)

Gears Tactics is committed to a linear campaign like previous games in the series. Too linear for our liking without a meta-strategy layer that can be managed. Here the game lacks or rather lacks any type of this element that is very liked by the players of the genre as a counterpoint to tactical combat and in a way to extend the game.

Surely the strategic depth of titles such as Phoenix Point, which has a multitude of bases, locations and ships to manage, was not necessary, but it is made of fewer -at least- elements such as the global map and the base that XCOM offers, from where it is It could manage the global strategy, the research of technologies, the resources, the arsenal or the own development of the soldiers, although this component is resolved in another section that we will see later.

No strategy and management. The developers have bet everything to combat and the faster possible the better. Firaxis has recently done it with the light and direct version Chimera Squad (an XCOM spin-off), but in a game that aims to open a new path for a franchise like Gears of War this section is lame.

Further, missions are mandatory and are repeated one after another until the end of each of the three acts in which the game is divided and where it will be necessary to face the final bosses. And there is no ability to choose them. There are some secondary missions that can be selected and are recommended because they allow us to get different equipment, upgrades or troops, but little else. In the end everything is repeated and without a strategy behind, we notice that the game is missing “something”.

So much so that in the interface you will only see three general sections; “Start” that returns you to the main menu of the game; “Missions”, which are the ones we have described and “Barracks”, which is the only thing that can truly be managed between missions. Offering something in meta-strategy will be a great improvement for a Gears Tactics 2 that will surely come in the future.

All for tactical action

If combat is the most fun in games of this genre, in Gears Tactics its importance is total given the deficiencies indicated in strategy and management. Not only is it the best of the game, “Is the game”. Fortunately, it is very well resolved both in the graphics and in the gameplay.

You have a squad of several units among which you can include main characters (heroes) and battle troops defined by their class. The number of units varies. You start small, but as you progress you can increase the size of the squad. It will also depend on the type of mission. There are some that limit the number of the squad and require a specific hero to be carried.

Mandatory missions are combined with secondary ones and also limit the number of troops. For example, heroes will only be able to act in a secondary mission for each of the three acts, which gives play when choosing each of them. They are highly recommended to perform and they will offer you additional advantages, weapon and armor modifiers, or the search for recruits that, once rescued, will become part of your troops. All missions, mandatory and secondary, offer additional loot if you complete them in a certain way, in a maximum number of turns, for example.

The mechanics are known and are repeated mission after mission. Once the squad is selected, they put you in an armored vehicle and transport you to the slaughter area. The animations are cool although they tend to repeat themselves, ending in an automatic display, since you cannot select where to place each soldier.

From here you have a number of actions determined each turn Depending on each soldier, their equipment and ability (three minimum) that you can spend to move around the map, attack, be on guard or use special abilities for the soldier himself or for others in the squad.

If titles like XCOM compel you to take full advantage of every available action, Gears Tactics offers you a little more freedom of action, selection, and the ability to extend your turn. The fast action of the game focuses the tactic on sweeping as many enemies as possible. And you will have to do it because they will always outnumber you. The execution with melee weapons such as the chainsaw or bayonet that offers additional movement or special abilities that achieve similar effects is focused on this.

Speaking of special abilities, as soon as you level up the troops, you will find a huge number of them (passive or active), multiplied by each of the soldiers you bring. Testing and combining the skills of each one of them is one of the most fun parts of the game and the best strategy (of the few that the game offers) to complete the missions as well as possible.

The maps where we will operate are spacious and visually lush. They use “fog of war” and most cannot be visited due to the commented linearity. They demand to defend, conquer or reach a specific point. There are many elements to protect or activate the guards scattered around the map, be they barricades, simple elements or buildings. Some of these have various heights, but are not used as adequately as in XCOM, nor do they have the interior maps of buildings in this, with action almost always outdoors. We also miss a greater number of destructible map elements.

The movement around the map is fluid and whatever the action, everything is perfectly detailed, the modeling of the characters borders on a high level and includes the animations of rigor when you strike an opponent (especially melee), including a bloody explosion and the corresponding blocks.

The basics of combat are the usual ones in this type of game. Permitted movements must be studied in detail for our troops in a certain scenario and in each of our turns. Some turns that are repeated between us and enemies and do not jump until everyone exhausts the actions or activates it manually. There is no action turn position mix between them as we have seen in XCOM Chimera Squad. When all the enemies finish you start and so on.

The map has a couple of zoom levels to zoom in or out and can be panned up and down, sideways or rotated at will to see places or enemies with better precision. The possibilities are diverse. The most direct will be to move to flank or achieve height differences that give us advantages before attacking. The interface shows the possibilities of impact for each of the enemies that we have online, the percentage of critical impact and the damage that we will produce. There is no possibility of attacking specific parts from the body of the enemy as allowed by games like Phoenix Point (exceptional in that section), except in the confrontations with the final bosses.

Looking for shelter to reload weapons, heal if we are wounded from the previous turn (or heal other fallen comrades) or activate guards that will be executed when enemies pass through the covered area when it is their turn, will be another of the preferred actions. The guard system is marked on the map with an attack cone in sight and is very effective. The enemies also use them and if you enter them they will crush you, although they are easy to avoid because they are shown on the map.

There is no shortage of melee attacks, very effective on some heroes, as well as grenade attacks of various types to sweep groups of enemies. And to close holes from where the Locust hordes come out. The use of grenades has a cooldown time and it is recommended to reserve one of your soldiers. Nor can the special actions that soldiers can deploy be used at all turns.

Obviously, in turn-based combat, take advantage of each of the actions that we have available is the key to success to win almost all scenarios. Some soldiers have more action points than others and there are ways to increase them in combat in various ways, for example by executing enemies that have been previously shot down. Just as important as the use of special actions by our squad as a whole. Or sacrifice troops when necessary, as in any battle.

With some aspects to improve tactical combat in Gears Tactics it is very fun and as we said, It is not only the best of the game, it is the game itself.

Characters: heroes and soldiers

Soldiers are the strong point of the entire saga and Gears Tactics was not going to be any different. Gabe Diaz leads a shock force that may include regular troops and other heroes that will appear according to advances in the company. The troops can die and will be replaced with others in each mission, but not the heroes that you will have to take special care of. Most missions require returning them alive, so if you fail you will have to restart the mission or start the entire game if you have the “Ironman” mode activated.

Each of them, heroes or regular troops, are included in one of the five classes available in the game: support, vanguard, scout, heavy and sniper. They define themselves and cannot be changed, but each soldier can be customized according to their abilities in the Barracks section. As you level up by completing missions you will get skill points that you can invest in each soldier through a tree with four branches.

The system gives a lot of play. You can have two soldiers of the same class, for example snipers, but at the same time they are quite different in their operation according to their abilities, more than 30 for each of them. And we repeat, its use is very important in the game. You can opt for a specific branch or customize your soldier to the maximum by selecting varied abilities from each group.

There is not much more to do except a second section that is also included in the barracks section and is dedicated to equipment. By default, all soldiers have a primary weapon, a secondary weapon, and grenades. They cannot be varied either and are not important by themselves, but by the vast number of modifiers that can be added to them. Some are passive abilities that enhance the soldier himself, and others are direct to increase his accuracy, general damage, critical hits or capacity of the chargers.

In the same way the armor of our soldiers. They have separate protections in helmet, upper or lower body and like weapons, they offer passive abilities of all kinds such as increased actions or invisibility, and their own advantages that in this case are aimed at increasing the health or evasiveness of the troops.

These modifiers differ in color and class: base, rare, epic and legendary. They can be achieved in various ways. Most of them will be obtained after completing primary or secondary missions. If you complete them in a certain way that is defined in each mission (for example in turns or without damage) you will have additional rewards. Loot boxes are also available in the same scenarios and can be collected as missions are completed.

This section also allows you to customize the appearance of the soldiers, although the changes are merely aesthetic. Interestingly, the heroes can hardly be personalized, but the regular troops can, in addition to clothing, you can change the mask, the hair and even add tattoos and scars. If heroes are added to your squad as the game’s story unfolds, troops can be recruited in this barracks section. They can be of the same classes as the heroes and can be upgraded in the same way.

The truth is that we liked this type of management of soldiers based on skills and modifiers. Much more complete than XCOM and is that it was forced in a game focused on characters. In the absence of any other type of strategy or management, this role-playing section is the most interesting thing you’ll find between missions. And the only thing to do except enjoy the animations and follow the story of the game.

Gears Tactics, availability and price

Gears Tactics is available in the Microsoft Store and on the Steam platform at a price of 69 euros. A high price considering the longevity of the game, with no additional strategy elements or multiplayer modes.

Worth? The game presents a great technical invoice. It lacks things, but what it offers is very well resolved. The followers of GoW will find a totally different game from the previous ones, but keeping the essence, while users who like this type of genre will enjoy turn-based tactical combat, which although it is based on known concepts, is develops differently. Personally, in this genre, I would stick with XCOM 2 above the rest, but Gears Tactics has wicks to please anyone. And it lays the foundation for following the franchise beyond its shooters.

Final assessment
         

SUMMARY

Gears Tactics is a breath of fresh air for the franchise and allows you to approach the Gears of War world in a very different way from all previous installments. With a strong focus on well-known characters, change the genre of the shooter to strategy, betting on turn-based tactical combat. It offers a great technical invoice in gameplay, video, animations and modeling. Lack of meta-strategy and management and its price is high

Features / Price7.5

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